Living in Norway – A Guide for PhD Students
Written by Chris Banyard
Norway is an exciting destination for your PhD adventure. While studying your doctorate in Norway, you will have the chance to visit the beautiful Norwegian fjords, see the stunning Northern Lights and, of course, benefit from an excellent university system.
The guide covers useful information about moving to Norway for your doctoral studies, including accommodation, living costs, work permits, setting up a bank account and getting around.
The traditional Viking spirit is still strong in modern day Norwegians. Despite the hardiness needed to endure cold winters and mountainous terrain, Norwegians have a spirit of kos (cosiness) that can be seen in their love of gå på tur (hiking), staying in hytte (chalet-like holiday cabins), their liberal society and an inner warmth and humour.
Norway is also a country with unique natural wonders. You can experience the serene Fjords, the awe-inspiring Northern Lights and the impressive mountains of the Jotunheimen National Park.
Arts and culture are flourishing in Norway, carrying on the legacy of famous literary, artistic and musical figures including Edvard Grieg, Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Munch, and Ludvig Holberg. Norway’s ‘Atlantic art nouveau’ style can be seen in its architecture, museums, theatres. Perhaps Norway’s most popular export is its music, ranging from the electronic duo Röyksopp to the folk-pop Kings of Convenience and the heavy metal bands Satyricon and Dimmu Borgir.
Winter sports are big in Norway – a traditional proverb declares ‘Norwegians are born with skis on their feet’. Norway also enjoys its extreme sports such as rock climbing, rafting, parachuting, BASE jumping, kiteboarding and mountain biking. For more leisurely visitors, hiking and cycling around Norway’s natural wonders are also a popular pastime.
Norway has a unique and traditional cuisine - though not all of it is for the faint-hearted! Lots of dishes are based around fish, including tørrfisk (a dry-preserved fish), sursild (pickled herring with sauces), fiskesuppe (fish soup), and lutefisk (fish soaked in acidic water-lye). There’s also syltelabb (cured pig’s trotter) and kjøttkaker and kjøttboller (meat-cakes and meatballs). The truly adventurous may want to try smalahove (blowtorched and boiled sheep’s head). Norwegians also love their coffee, and you’ll find many cafés. Although most alcohol is expensive, juleøl (Christmas beer) and akevitt (spirit flavoured with caraway seeds) are traditional delicacies.
The cost of housing in Norway can be high so, as a PhD student, you will usually be staying in university accommodation.
Most Norwegian universities offer student accommodation in the form of student villages located within or nearby to the university campus. These are similar to halls of residence or student flats in the UK. Student villages are significantly cheaper than alternative accommodation, such as private rented rooms / apartments.
The cost of accommodation is generally higher than in the UK. You can expect to pay around €350-495 per month for a room in university accommodation. Your prospective university can provide you with further information about the accommodation options that they offer.
The cost of living in Norway is quite high. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) requires that students have a minimum of €12,280 per year to cover subsistence during PhD study. You can expect to pay around €1,023 per month including rent.
The following table gives an indication of prices for some common expenses during a PhD in Norway:
Student Cost of Living in Norway - 2023
|Monthly Travel Pass
|Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.
Due to the high cost of living in Norway, many international students choose to hold part-time jobs to fund their studies. However, finding part-time work with Norwegian language ability can be difficult and available jobs are limited.
EU / EEA students do not need a work permit and are free to work in Norway once they have registered their residence with the local police.
Other international students are permitted to work up to 20 hours per week during the first year of study as specified by your student residence permit. However, when the study permit is renewed year-on-year, satisfactory progress in your PhD must be documented to continue working part-time.
Employment contracts with your university
Many PhD students in Norway are treated as university employees. As such, you may receive a salary and workers’ rights. However, this also means if you are a non-EU / EEA student you may require specific conditions or a valid work permit to reflect your status, and this may also affect your ability to carry out additional work. You should contact your university for more information.
The Norwegian currency is the Krone (kr or NOK).
In order to open a Norwegian bank account, PhD students will first need to receive their Norwegian Identity Number. The application to open your bank account must be done in person at your chosen bank and requires your National ID card and passport. It may take several weeks to process your application.
The transport networks of Norway are typically modern and expansive. Additionally, your Norwegian university student card provides many discounts on transport services.
The railway is often the best way to get around Norway, particularly in the remoter Northern parts of the country. Most passenger services are operated by Norwegian State Railways (NSB). Student tickets, with a 25% discount, are available for students with valid ID cards and confirmation of university enrolment.
Norway has over 50 airports, connecting the country’s major cities to more isolated locations and other parts of Europe. The state-run company Avinor is responsible for administering most of Norway’s airports.
Most Norwegian cities have a local bus service offering affordable travel. However, the most popular way of travelling around Norway’s cities is by walking or biking – the country’s traffic culture priorities pedestrians and cyclists. Taxis are also available, but these tend to be fairly expensive.
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